Close The Obscene Gap: for a £10 minimum and a maximum wage

richieby Richie Venton, SSP national trade union organizer

The gaping chasm between the incomes of millions of workers and handfuls of millionaire company chief executives is opening up ever wider, like the blades of a giant pair of scissors.

The case I expounded in my book, Break the Chains, for an immediate national minimum wage of £10-an-hour for all workers – regardless of age – and a maximum wage initially based on an overly generous 10:1 differential with the minimum (i.e. £100-an-hour maximum) screams out from every page of every recent report on workers’ wages and bosses’ incomes.

The top dogs of the FTSE 100 biggest companies have just had yet another 10% pay rise – and that’s before they rake in untold bonuses, shares portfolios, and bottomless pension pots. Since the 2010 recession, these capitalist overlords have had their salaries increase by a third! They now wallow like pigs in the proverbial, on average incomes of £5.5million!

Back on Planet Earth!

Meantime in the same country, but on a different planet, UK workers’ wages have plunged by 10.4% in the same five years since the 2010 recession. As the Bank of England expressed it, most families have suffered “a lost decade of income”. Mass unemployment has been replaced mass poverty pay.

Again, as I spelt out in Break the Chains,
National Living WagePoverty pay impoverishes not only its direct victims – the growing horde of workers denied access to society on a par with their neighbours and contemporaries – but also impoverishes the whole of society. The lack of spending power that low wages curses affected families with, in turn depresses the wider economy.

That’s one of the reasons even the Tories – those privileged mouthpieces for the moneyed class of parasites – felt obliged to superficially increase wages in April, through their obscenely mis-named £7.20 National Living Wage.

In doing so, they also sought to divide workers, by excluding the under-25s, who are increasingly hired in preference to ‘older’, more expensive workers in the likes of retail and hospitality.

And the other factor that drove the obnoxious George Osborne to do this was the fear of his class at a pay revolt, as workers become increasingly infuriated at the obscene contrast between their grinding poverty and capitalist chiefs’ shameless opulence.

Capitalism has no Solutions

Poverty pay wrecks lives. It wrecks the economy. It shreds social solidarity. And its accompanying inequality demotivates millions of workers who observe company bosses on 183 times as much as ‘their’ workers’ average wage.

But that’s where the lunacy of capitalism prevents a solution that would keep the rich in the wealth they’re accustomed to, whilst paying the wealth-creating working class decent wages that boosts spending power.

It’s alright for Theresa May – or Cameron before her – to spout platitudes about “the irrational, unhealthy and growing gap”, but what will they do about it? They promised to ‘aim’ at the National Living Wage (only for those past their 25th) reaching £9 by 2020. That’s pathetic, totally inadequate here and now, let alone four years hence. But it’s also provoked uproar amongst business sections, who scream blue murder about “having to make difficult choices”.

Employers in hospitality, the care sector and nurseries recently joined with the Federation of Small Businesses, Association of Convenience Stores and National Farmers Union in a letter to the new Tory Business Minister demanding he abandon such giddy extravagance as £9-an-hour for the over-25s in 2020.

Profit versus Pay

So here’s the rub: it’s to the advantage of the capitalist class as a whole to have reasonably paid workers who can therefore spend more and thereby boost overall profits for the ruling capitalist class. But in the jungle warfare of capitalism as a system, with each profiteering outfit vying with its competitors, every penny pay increase is a penny lost to their individual company profits.

As I put it in the book,
David Cameron telling a room of capitalist bosses that ‘Britain needs a pay rise’ is like Dracula appealing to a conference of vampires for volunteers to donate blood. These bloodsuckers have moved mountains for the past 30-40 years to slash the real wages of workers, boosting their profits by driving down the share of wealth that goes to wages.

Organise For £10 Now and a Maximum Wage

budget_cutsWe clearly can’t rely on the benevolence – nor even the naked self-interest – of either the capitalist employers or their political representatives to tackle poverty pay nor the opening scissors of inequality. That requires an entirely different approach: workers becoming conscious of how they’re exploited by this system, confident of their own power to challenge that set-up when organised.

And a struggle for the likes of a guaranteed minimum wage of £10 now, in 2016 – alongside a legally enforced £100-an-hour maximum income – as the first, modest steps towards the eradication of poverty, inequality and all the social ills they create.

Buy a copy of Venton’s book – Break The Chains – here.